Mitsubishi was founded as a shipbuilding company in Japan during the early 1870s. The company diversified over the next few decades and, in 1917, it introduced Japan’s first series-production automobile, the Mitsubishi Model A. A seven-seater that was based on the Fiat Tipo 3, the Model A was built by hand and therefore too expensive to compete with mass-produced models from the U.S. and Europe. When the Model A discontinued in 1921, only 22 were built.
Mitsubishi Through The Years
For the next forty years or so, Mitsubishi produced a number of other manufacturing products including ships, railroad cars, and even the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which was a long-range fighter flown by the Japanese military during World War II. During this time, Mitsubishi also produced the PX33, which was a prototype sedan intended for use by the military. The PX33 employed a full-time, four-wheel drive technology that would resurface decades later in modern vehicles built by Mitsubishi.
The company finally began producing cars on a large scale in the 1960s with the introduction of the compact Mitsubishi 500. In 1970, nearly 100 years after the company was founded, Mitsubishi’s automobile production wing broke away from its parent company, and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation formed.
Mitsubishi in America
Within a year of its formation, the company began exporting models to the U.S. The first Mitsubishi vehicle to appear stateside was the Colt in 1971. The Mitsubishi Colt caught the eye of Chrysler which, like many U.S. car companies at the time, was looking for smaller, more economical vehicles. Chrysler decided to purchase a 15 percent interest in Mitsubishi and thus get access to its vehicles.
Chrysler rebranded many Mitsubishi models under the Dodge marquee. These vehicles sold extremely well, and, by the end of the decade, the company was producing more than one million cars per year. Finally, in 1982, Mitsubishi began to sell cars in the U.S. under its own name.
Throughout much of the 1980s, Mitsubishi remained under the shadow of more established Japanese auto brands such as Toyota and Honda. However, in the 1990s, Mitsubishi began to emerge with its own identity as a producer of sportier, more performance-oriented vehicles such as the Eclipse and the 3000GT, both of which sold extremely well in the U.S.
When Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998, Mitsubishi continued its partnership with DaimlerChrysler. However, that arrangement terminated in 2003 and, since then, Mitsubishi has struggled to maintain its standing in the U.S. market. Revelations about a systematic cover up of defects in its vehicles lead to one of the largest corporate scandals in the history of Japan and did little to help the brand’s flagging fortunes in the U.S. market.
The Mitsubishi Lancer is a family sedan that’s been in production since 1973. While previous incarnations of the Lancer were regarded as being rather sluggish and dull, the most recent generation is noted for being stylish and fun to drive, along with providing the safety, fuel economy, and reliability you’d expect from a Japanese-built family sedan. The Lancer is also available in the more performance-oriented Sportback version and, of course, the Lancer Evolution sports car.
Originally released in 1969, the Mitsubishi Galant has been around even longer than the Lancer. Mitsubishi has discontinued the model.
The Outlander is a four-door crossover SUV that was introduced in 2001. Currently, it is the only vehicle Mitsubishi manufactures with all-wheel drive capable of accommodating seven passengers though the third row is real small.
The Outlander Sport is a more compact version of the crossover SUV and was unveiled in 2010. The Outlander Sport offers reduced seating capacity but in return it provides more attractive styling, reduced weight, and a slightly improved fuel economy.
The Mitsubishi i, which is also known as the i-MiEV, is a five-door electric vehicle first introduced to the U.S. in 2011. Compact, light, and highly economical, the i is available in select markets with plans for a nationwide rollout.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse was one of the most popular Japanese-made sport coupes and convertibles sold in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. However, in 2011, the Eclipse was discontinued with 2012 slated to be its final model year. The Mitsubishi Montero is another SUV manufactured by Mitsubishi that was discontinued in the U.S. back in 2006.
Mitsubishi briefly tried its hand at producing pickup trucks when it released the Mitsubishi Raider which was based off the Dodge Dakota. However, the Raider suffered from disappointing sales and only lasted until 2009.
Popular Mitsubishi Products and Technologies
Despite the troubles it has endured in recent years, the Mitsubishi brand is still highly regarded around the world. The company enjoys a reputation for building reliable, economical and performance minded sedans, coupes, and crossover SUVs. Many of the brand’s discontinued models such as the Mirage, the Endeavor, the Eclipse, and the Montero remain big sellers in the used car market today.